Sunscreen and Skin Cancer

Sometimes in science and medicine we want to have a definitive answer to a question – even when none exists.

Sometimes we think we know the answer because of popular opinion or (even worse) advertising.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, sunscreen should be used when going out in the sun, but should not be considered a reason to extend the amount of time spent in the sun. The use of sunscreen is only one of the steps that should be taken to prevent skin cancer. The best ways to lower the risk of skin cancer are:

1) Staying out of the sun between 10am and 4pm

2) Seeking shade

3) Wearing hats and protective clothing

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Qualtiy, the use of sunscreen seems to reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma, but people that use only sunscreen may increase their risk of melanoma if they wind up spending more time in the sun.

I think most people think they can stay in the sun longer because they have sunscreen on and won’t burn as easily.

Some important information –

  • Melanoma is a rare skin cancer, but it results in the majority of deaths from skin cancer.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is rarely malignant.
  • Using sunscreen with an SPF of 8 or more decreases vitamin d production in the skin by 95%
  • Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in the northeast

What do you think?

Do you know of any definitive information on the matter to guide public health recommendations?

What makes sense to you?

Please submit your comments.

Be Well,

Richard Malik, ND

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